Cruise from Auckland – the essential guide

It was fantastic to visit New Zealand, a place we had dreamt of seeing for a long time. Starting our vacation in Auckland was perfect for our sporting family. There was so much to do around both Waitemata and Manukau Harbour. It’s a fantastic city, beyond all expectations. We’d love to come back someday.

The natural wonders of New Zealand, in the Pacific Ocean, draw visitors back time and again. Consisting of the two main islands, North Island and South Island, New Zealand is also made up of 700 smaller islands. The sheer diversity of flowers, fauna, and landscapes, coupled with the fascinating Māori culture, has ensured that this beautiful country tops many the bucket list of world travelers like yourselves. 

New Zealand (Maori: Aotearoa (“Long White Cloud”) will breathe new life into travelers who are wondering where the next “big” vacation should be. Many say that the air is fresher, colors are brighter and folk are friendlier than in any other place on earth.

We say we agree. And your starting point is a cruise from Auckland, City of Sails.

A Cruise package to include both New Zealand and Australia

Why not choose a cruise package to New Zealand and Australia and visit both countries on the same vacation? A cruise from Auckland offers an easy way to see many fantastic New Zealand stops, including the unrivaled fjord landscape of southwest South Island.

Choose a cruise that continues across Australia, finishing up in spectacular Sydney, Australia.

Cruise from Auckland

Start your vacation with four nights in Auckland’s sporting and cultural city before you start your cruise. A cruise from Auckland allows you to discover the best of New Zealand in affordable luxury before you sail across the Tasman Sea to Australia.

Many cruise lines offer a cruise from Auckland. By far, one of the best is those offered by Celebrity Cruises. Two of their most beautiful cruise ships – Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Solstice, depart from Princes Wharf, easily accessible from central Auckland.

We can even recommend hotels within walking distance to the port and major attractions, making you ideally placed to explore the city easily.

Auckland – a place that will stay with you forever

The thing we love most about Auckland is the cultural mix evident everywhere in this stunning city by the ocean. European, Asian, Maori, and Polynesian cultures blend into a vivid array of neighborhoods, restaurants, and shopping. From street markets and local B&Bs to high-end hotels and 5+ star restaurants, there is something to suit everyone, both taste and budget.

Even if you visit just once, this place will stay with you forever.

Where to stay before your cruise from Auckland

Here are the hotels we recommend. All of these choices are located in Auckland’s Central Business District. The location is ideal if you board your cruise from Auckland at Princes Wharf, about a 15-20 minute walk from CBD or a very short taxi ride.

It is the best place to stay during your visit.

The central business district is a busy hub of commerce during the day and a fantastic combination of street markets, nightlife, and open-air restaurants in the evenings.

You will find the Auckland Sky Tower and the city’s famous Auckland Art Gallery. Viaduct Harbour is close to restaurants along the waterfront.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum is a pleasant 30-minute walk from the CBD, located in the city’s largest park, The Auckland Domain.

The Auckland Ferry Terminal is close by, at the north end of the main shopping street, Queens Street. It is opposite the Britomart Transport Center – a central hub for local buses and trains.

From the Auckland Ferry Terminal, you can visit the outlying islands such as Waiheke Island, known for its nature, hiking, and many vineyards.

Other islands worth exploring if you have the time are the beautiful nature reserve of Tiritiri Matangi with its rare bird species. Tiritiri Matangi is about a 75-minute ferry ride.

Rangitoto Island is a small volcanic island known for its unusual lava terrain. It’s a short ferry ride of about 25 minutes to get there. Hike to the summit or board the 4wd road train for a tour of the island. Alternatively, Viator do an exciting kayaking tour if you feel fit!

Stay here in the Central Business District is a great option, especially for first-time visitors, and you can navigate your way around easily. Choose one of the following quality hotels:

  • Skycity Hotel Auckland
  • Hilton Auckland
  • Heritage Auckland
  • Hotel Grand Chancellor
  • Ramada Suites by Wyndham (excellent for families with children)
  • Stamford Plaza Auckland

How to get around the city

Auckland has an excellent transport system that is easy to use, fast and clean. Britomart is the name of the central transportation hub, and it is from this point in the city you will find that most local trains and buses start and finish. 

And just opposite Britomart is the ferry departure point to get you a little further afield. 

Fast, frequent, and inexpensive “Link” buses

City buses are called “Link buses” and are cheap and frequent – so frequent that they do not operate on a timetable.

All Link buses are red, green, amber, or blue. Just find the appropriate colored bus stop and wait for the next one. They will get you to all parts of the city quickly and are a great way to beat the heat on a warm day, with the bonus that you get a mini-sightseeing trip too.

If you are a family or group staying more than a few days in the city, consider pre-purchasing an “At Hop” smart card. This transport card covers buses, trains, and ferries, and you save around 20% of the cost of your local transport.

Combine these options with walking, and you can see and explore a great deal of Auckland in your time. We recommend good walking shoes, an excellent guide, and a day of exploration walking across the city on foot. 

How to get from Auckland Airport to the City Centre

Trains and buses offer regular service between Auckland International Airport and the city using licensed and approved transport providers.

  • Train: Auckland has an extensive train network. We recommend a bus or taxi for transport from/to the airport. If you are traveling further afield, the train is a good choice. But to get you from the airport to your city hotel the bus is a smoother option.
  • Shuttle Bus: Shuttle bus stops are located right outside your arrival lounge (door 8), and there is no need to pre-book your journey. Just let the driver know which hotel you are staying at, and he will drop you there. It’s a door-to-door service. A Shuttle journey one way will cost you about NZ$40 per person and another NZ$8 per person within your group.
  • Auckland City Express also operates a fast bus service, the Sky Bus, a direct route between the airport and the central business district for around $20 per person.
  • Taxi: Taxis are parked outside of the terminal. Only accredited taxi companies are allowed to pick up at the airport. The journey to central Auckland will cost around NZ$70 per taxi and take around 30 minutes.

4 great ways to see the best of Auckland before boarding your cruise from Port of Auckland

If I were your Auckland guide, this is where we would go. We have divided your visit into four fantastic days.

It’s essential to do some planning before you cruise from Auckland to ensure you make the most of your time there! Choose what sounds most appealing, where you want to visit, and what suits your budget. Then allow extra time for exploring without a schedule!

Day 1: Getting to know Auckland

Start your day by familiarizing yourself with Auckland’s central business district. Known as the City of Sails, Auckland is home to more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world!

Start at Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter. The streets are pedestrianized and packed with great cafes and eateries—indeed, a place to return to in the evenings.

From here, walk to Britomart, the central transport hub in the city. Here you will find the city’s Link buses that take you easily and inexpensively around Auckland. The Edwardian Ferry Terminal is opposite, where you can take a ferry over to Devonport, Waiheke Island, or Tiritiri Matangi Island.

Enjoy brunch or a coffee at Elliott Stables, an excellent international food court in an old industrial-style warehouse. Head down Queen Street and then High Street, Auckland’s main shopping street.

From here, walk through Albert Park to the University of Auckland. Hop on a bus to Domain, Auckland’s largest park, and visit the fantastic Auckland War Memorial Museum. Well worth a visit for the whole family.

A Link bus will take you over to Ponsonby. Packed with trendy shopping, this is a great place to spend a few hours exploring the local shops.

Climb back onto the bus and head to Sky Tower. If a fantastic view over Auckland is a must for you, we recommend you book in advance and visit the Sky Tower at sunset.

The tower stands over 300 meters above street level, and while the entrance fee is pricy, this is also a fantastic place to take the kids. Children 14 and under pay under half the price of an adult, and those under 5 are completely free.

Day 2: Discover Waitakere Ranges and Auckland’s western coastline at Piha Beach

Today we recommend you get out of the city and see the stunning, rugged coastline west of Auckland. To do this and ensure that you see as much as possible, pre-book a guided tour. You will not be sorry.

Today you visit the Waitakere Ranges. Wear good walking shoes, bring a backpack with water, sunscreen, and your camera!

Start at the Arataki visitors center to pick up maps of walking trails. Step outside and walk the path around the visitor’s center for breathtaking panoramic views of the rainforest below you and New Zealand’s famous kauri trees.

Look further, and you’ll see the point where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. Follow the Arataki Nature Trail, which takes you on a scenic loop through the Rain Forest.

Bordering the ranges are some fantastic black sand beaches. By bus, you travel from the visitors center to Piha Beach on the west coast. Piha Beach is a black iron-sand beach famous for surfing. Close to the beach, climb Lion Rock for great views, and visit Kitakita Falls, a beautiful 40-meter-high waterfall located about a 30-minute hike from Piha Beach.

Often on a booked excursion, you will be able to finish your day with a walk through Titirangi village before heading back to Auckland.

Day 3: Day trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island

Thirty kilometers northeast of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf lies the island of Tiritiri Matangi. A protected nature haven for endangered species, you’ll discover hidden beaches and lush forests in this fantastic destination for adults and children of all ages.

Head to the Ferry Terminal in the city and catch the 75-minute ferry over to the island. Note that there is nowhere to buy food on the island, so you must bring a backpack with your supplies. Although there is a shop that sells drinks, bring lots of water with you!

You will also need good walking shoes, sunblock, and a hat. And even a light rain jacket, as the weather is unpredictable, but don’t let that put you off. Often the birds and wildlife are more active after a good downpour.

When your ferry arrives at Tiritiri Matangi Island, you will be met by a ranger. They meet all the visitors arriving by ferry. A short briefing will follow about the island. You must wait until after the briefing before you start exploring. As a first-time visitor, we recommend you join the guided walk from the wharf to the visitors center, located beside the lighthouse. There is a gift shop and toilet facilities at the visitors center.

The guided walk is a great way to learn all the local knowledge about the history of the island and the plants and animals.

Book your guided walk when you purchase your ferry ticket and be prepared for a fantastic day. Tickets can be purchased online and cost about NZ$90 per adult and half price for children over 5 yrs. After the short guided walk by the ranger, explore the island yourself, following one of the walking tracks.

When hungry, head to Hobbs Beach, just a 15-minute walk from the pier and a perfect spot for a picnic. Remember to ask when the last ferry back to Auckland leaves the island so you make it back to the pier in good time!

Day 4: Devonport, wining, dining & shopping

Start your final day in Auckland with a 12-minute boat ride from The Ferry Terminal to Devonport Wharf, on Auckland’s north shore. Initially settled by the Maori and later colonized by the Europeans, Devonport is our favorite Auckland suburb.

From Devonport Wharf, walk along the stunning high street, Victoria Road. This quaint historic town offers postcard-perfect views back over to the city from Mount Victoria, just a 20-minute walk from the pier.

Head towards the summit; alternatively, if you don’t want the walk, rent a bike or segway from the pier and take the easy way up. If you do a self-tour of Devonport, you can download the tour directly onto your smartphone.

In the afternoon, visit the Britomart precinct. There are often events and activities year-round in this lively area. Try the seasonal menu at Amano or the flavors of Ostro, located in the Seafarers Building and known for its locally sourced ingredients.

Live, breathe and enjoy this wonderful city for four days before heading to the Port of Auckland. Your hotel can pre-book a taxi for you for your transfer to the airport. Just let them know what time you must check in. Remember to check your cruise ticket to determine which port your cruise ship. Most of the time, Celebrity Cruises use Princes Wharf.

Start imagining your New Zealand journey. Visit their official website by clicking www.newzealand.com.

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Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..